The buck stops here and the votes begin: starting at 7 pm CST, more than 100,000 voters - only a small percentage of the state's electorate - are expected to gather across the state at more than 800 public spots, and cast their votes for their GOP candidate with only three: Paul, Romney and for some unknown reason, Santorum expected to have a fighting changes. Results should begin coming in within a few hours. For those following the caucus for the only important reason: to see how Ron Paul does, or is allowed to do, we have the following live feeds for our readers' disposal.
Live results can be seen here as they trickle in:
And some more on the Iowa caucus from Reuters as the GOP primary kicks off officially:
Republican candidates crisscrossed Iowa in a last-minute bid for support on Tuesday ahead of the first contest of the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, and at least three - Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul - appeared to have a shot at victory.
Iowa's caucuses are known more for weeding out candidates than picking the future president. Finishing in the top spot Tuesday night could provide a big boost in the state-by-state battle to select a Republican challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
Most of the candidates have topped opinion polls at one point in the volatile Republican race that until recently centered on televised debates rather than on-the-ground campaigning.
Polls show Romney, the favorite of the party's business wing, in a tight race with Paul, a U.S. congressman from Texas with libertarian views, and Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who hopes to consolidate Iowa's large bloc of Christian conservatives. Romney is a former Massachusetts governor.
Many voters remain undecided. The unusual caucus process adds an element of unpredictability. Voters in Iowa gather in public meetings at hundreds of sites around the state such as schools, libraries and churches, listening to speeches touting the various candidates before casting their ballots.
"I'm kind of on the fence. A name that's been kind of sticking out, along with everyone, is Rick Santorum. We're not a hundred percent for sure yet," Des Moines resident Jason Harpineau said just hours before the start of the caucuses.
Sparsely populated Iowa only yields 28 delegates of the 1,143 needed to lock up the Republican presidential nomination, and those delegates aren't actually awarded for months after Tuesday's caucuses.
Santorum hopes to emerge as the latest conservative alternative to Romney.
Largely consigned to the margins for most of the race, Santorum is now fending off attacks from his rivals who see him as a new threat. On Tuesday, he said Paul was behind a wave of automated phone calls that question his anti-abortion and pro-gun credentials.
"Ron Paul is disgusting," Santorum told Fox News reporters.
A win by Paul would help him extend his minimal-government stance and broaden the appeal of his campaign outside his zealous base, many of them independents, disaffected Democrats and younger voters.